E-waste Legislation news release

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This is currently a draft, and may be changed before it's sent out. Contact Pete or Ali with any concerns. -Pete 17:41, 23 February 2007 (PST)


Portland non-profit Free Geek supports regulation of electronic waste disposal, emphasizing reuse and accountability

Portland, Ore., Feb. 23, 2007— Free Geek announces its support of draft legislation moving through the Energy and the Environment Committee of the Oregon House of Representatives. That committee will recommend a bill to the full House in mid-March.

Improper disposal of electronic waste—much of which contains hazardous materials like lead—currently causes enormous environmental and public health problems, both locally and worldwide. Third world countries earn money by importing American e-waste, but are generally ill-equipped to dispose of it properly. Typical results (documented extensively by the Basel Action Network) are contaminated drinking water and toxic fumes from burned materials. Here in Oregon, monitors (containing large quantities of lead, and not accepted by curbside garbage haulers) have increasingly been used for firearm target practice, which pollutes our groundwater with lead.

Rep. Jackie Dingfelder (D-HD45) has advocated e-waste regulation for several years, to reduce these problems. Now chairing the Energy and the Environment Committee, and with bipartisan and industry support, she is likely to succeed in passing a law. Oregon will likely join Washington and California by creating a mechanism in which manufacturers and consumers fund a system for proper disposal of e-waste.

Free Geek has a strong and innovative 6-year record of reducing e-waste problems. Free Geek supports the intent to regulate e-waste disposal, and encourages legislators to consider two key points as draft legislation is refined:

  1. Prioritize reuse over recycling. Even responsible disposal has environmental and social costs. Older hardware is often reusable, and the techniques developed by Free Geek to maximize the use of older hardware should be incorporated into new public policy. Under any fee structure put into law, end-processors who produce working computers should be paid more than those who produce raw materials for recycling.
  2. Ensure that end processors are truly responsible. Free Geek seeks out partners who engage in responsible practices, and has found that good intentions are not always fulfilled. Certification of recyclers, and transparency of methodology, are essential in order to ensure that the state's approved processors do not take hazardous shortcuts in their methodology.

Free Geek is a Portland-based not for profit community organization that recycles used technology to provide computers, education, internet access and job skills training to those in need in exchange for community service. Its volunteers have refurbished over 20,000 working computers and recycled over three million pounds of obsolete technology since 2000. In 2006, Free Geek was recognized with both the Association of Oregon Recyclers' Recycler of the Year award and the Mayor's Spirit of Portland award.

Contact information:

Free Geek
Alison Briggs (staff Outreach Committee member)
503-232-9350 • ali@fg FILL IN BEFORE SENDING
Pete Forsyth (volunteer Outreach Committee member)
503-453-9766 • pete@fg FILL IN BEFORE SENDING